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North Korean defector warns of war preparations


Also says spies try to cause unrest

July 10, 1997
Web posted at: 12:41 p.m. EDT (1641 GMT)

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SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- North Korea's most prominent defector warned on Thursday that North Korea was prepared for a massive war with the South, despite recent moves toward peace.

"They say they are not trying to build up their army, but for the past four decades this is the only thing they have done," Hwang Jang Yop told a nationally televised news conference. "The preparations for war exceed your imagination," said Hwang, who defected from North Korea in February.

South Korean officials also issued a report with further information they attributed to Hwang.

Hwang said the North is "100 percent" self-sufficient in military arms, and all major military facilities are hidden in tunnels."

He said North Korean leader Kim Jong Il knew that a protracted war would destroy his regime, and was waiting to catch South Korea and its U.S. ally off-guard with a blitzkrieg attack.

Before the news conference, he told South Korean investigators that an extensive network of moles regularly sent intelligence reports to Kim, according to Eom Ikk-joon, a vice director of Seoul's Agency for National Security Planning. The tip has set off a search for North Korean spies in the South, Eom said.

Hwang told reporters the moles not only passed on secrets but tried to foment social turmoil in the South.

Hwang warns of war from North

Hwang major architect of North Korean ideology

Hwang was a prominent North Korean ideologue and the major architect of North Korea's governing ideology of juche, or self-reliance. He also served as a tutor for Kim as well as most of North Korea's leading elite.

Hwang is also the highest-ranking North Korean official to defect to the South. He and a close aide, Kim Duk Hong, sought political asylum at the South Korean consulate in Beijing on their way back from a seminar in Japan.

The pair stayed holed up in the consulate for more than a month and then remained in South Korean protection in the Philippines before being flown to Seoul in April.

Hwang disillusioned with N. Korea's leadership

Hwang's news conference Thursday was his first since arriving in Seoul. Hwang said he came to the South to prevent war and bring about a peaceful unification, and he voiced his disillusionment with the North Korean leadership.

"The North Korean political system is a complete dictatorship, and the party and the military are all the private possessions of Kim Jong Il," he said. "Even the people and the nation are his."

Although he dismissed the idea that there was a party split between hard-liners and moderates in North Korea's government, he did suggest that there was dissent in the country, hinting at concentration camps for dissenters.

"Why are hundreds of thousands of people dying in off-limit areas?" he said, in response to a question asking whether all North Koreans support Kim.

Seoul citizens sobered by warnings

On Seoul streets, Hwang's warnings about the North seemed to have a sobering effect. "I realize I really don't know North Korea very well, and didn't even make the effort," said one man.

"It made me think about how we should live here in the South," said another. "I believe we should build up power."

During the news conference, Hwang sidestepped questions about Kim Jong Il's personality, saying such things were irrelevant.

But Seoul officials stress that the real value of the 74-year-old defector has been his ability to confirm many outside suspicions about the inner workings of one of the worlds most reclusive regimes. He has spent the past months being debriefed by South Korea and U.S. intelligence agencies.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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